Summer Meltdown

Coming full circle 2


What: Summer Meltdown

When: 10 am Thu., Aug. 11 -14

Where: Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater, Darrington

Cost: $35-$215


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It happens every year. No, not just the Summer Meltdown Festival, but also the Subdued Stringband Jamboree. Every single year since the inception of both homegrown, homemade music festivals (with the exception of that one year, and possibly some time near the beginning that is so far back in history that it no longer counts), they have happened during the exact same weekend.

Every single year.

I talk about it every year as well. I don’t necessarily think by pointing out this ongoing scheduling conundrum that I will do anything to resolve it, freeing one festival from the tyranny of the other (or freeing fans of both to attend both, is probably a more accurate way to characterize it), it’s more that I continue to be amazed that this is so, that neither Meltdown nor Stringband is able to break the deadlock they both have on the calendar in general, and a certain weekend in early August in particular.

Maybe next year will be different. I doubt it, but I am nothing if not hopeful.

In the meantime, we are left to consider each festival on its own merits. Which brings us to the 2016 Summer Meltdown Festival (look for Subdued Stringband Jamboree coverage in next week’s issue).

Before it became the mighty multi-day event it is today, Meltdown was a slightly more modest affair. It was spearheaded by local jam band Flowmotion, who acted as founder and headliner, and for several years it was a labor of love organized and executed by a volunteer crew mostly comprised of friends of the band. From there, its decidedly grassroots, green ethos developed organically, as did its following of fun-loving folks who wanted to get out of town and have a good time in a community of likeminded people.

During those early years, the festival was not anchored to any one venue, instead trying a few on before they finally found one that fit, incongruously enough, in Darrington, at the Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater. It’s a site Meltdown has called home for the past decade, and a place to which the festival feels powerfully attached, the venue long since having become almost as integral to the proceedings as the music.

Situated by a river and nestled against the mountains, the Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater is the kind of scenic locale that is endemic to the Pacific Northwest. It’s also far enough away from anything—while still being relatively close by—to be able to feel like you’re getting away from it all without much of the stress and effort that generally goes along with trying to get away from it all. And, for the second year, Meltdown has partnered with local businesses who traffic in adventure—the Pack Station, Washington Horse Trips, Adventure Cascades, Northwest Mountain School—to give festival-goers opportunities to explore their surroundings that go beyond wading in the river or stumbling to their campsites.

But lest we get caught up in all this natural splendor and forget what we came for, I would do well to remind one and all that the Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater is also a pretty amazing place to see a show, and Meltdown aims to provide a lineup that will outdo the scenery.

As has been the custom for several years, Meltdown actually kicks off on Thursday night—which this year falls on Aug. 11—with a slightly scaled-back lineup (two stages instead of three) that is worth calling in sick on Friday for. This year, you’ll find a heavy emphasis on local bands, as Snug Harbor and Polecat will both play the Garden Stage, and Beats Antique—not local, but certainly locally beloved—on the Main Stage. Moon Hooch and Twiddle will round out the night.

Friday, Aug. 12 is when the festival begins to fire on all cylinders—and that’s when a good amount of the crowd will pour in and set up camp—and the music starts just after 12pm with Josh Clauson (Meltdown founder and producer) & Friends. After that comes, in no particular order except that of my own fickle interests, Ayron Jones and the Way, the Budos Band, Gramatik, Sunsquabi, and more. For me, the can’t-miss acts of the day would have to be the Blue Scholars (yes, you read that right) and Michal Menert and the Pretty Fantastics, a band that counts Snug Harbor’s Will Glazier among its expansive membership.

Friday nights events don’t wrap up until the wee hours of Saturday morning, but if you want to see the Mountain Flowers, you won’t be able to sleep in too late, given that they’ll appear at 12:15pm on the Garden Stage. From there, you can just show up and hang out and the Sky Colony, Baby Cakes, and Fame Riot will show up at regular intervals to entertain you. After that is when things get more complicated and choices must be made. On the Main Stage, you’ll find ALO, Keys N Krates, and Griz. The Green Stage will play host to Acorn Project, Beat Connection, and Monophonics. And in the aptly named Late Night Tent, Exmag, Manic Focus, and more will take you into Sunday morning almost until sunrise.

Speaking of Sunday, that’s when things will wind down, with music happening again on just two stages—but music aplenty there will be. Rabbit Wilde, Rising Appalachia, and STS9 will take over the Main Stage, while over on the Garden Stage will be Trevor Hall, Crow and the Canyon, Dirty Revival, and more. The last band of the day will be, as is only appropriate, Flowmotion, who will close out the day and the festival they founded. And in that way, Summer Meltdown comes full circle.

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